The (high-heeled) Shoe doesn’t fit the Other Foot, or does it?

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Andrej Pejic, all-purpose androgynous model, has made #98 on FHM’s list of the world’s sexiest women .

A blurb online that accompanied Pejic’s picture read: “Designers are hailing him as the next big thing. We think ‘thing’ is quite accurate… The gender bender has jumped the gun in hoping he might one day be signed as a Victoria’s Secret Model (pass the sick bucket).”

After readers were outraged by the transphobic comments, FHM quickly removed the entry from its Web site and issued an apology. The June print edition of the magazine had already been published, but with less offensive text.

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23 Responses to The (high-heeled) Shoe doesn’t fit the Other Foot, or does it?

  1. JohnJ says:

    There are people who believe that gender is a matter of choice, or should be a matter of choice because they think it can be a matter of choice. Because they believe it’s a matter of choice, they see the refusal to play along as an attempt to take away someone’s choice, an act they believe can only be motivated by hatred.

    Acknowledging reality is the new hate.

    • CubaLibre says:

      Which reality is it that we’re supposed to be acknowledging, again?

      • JohnJ says:

        The reality that gender is not a matter of choice.

        • CubaLibre says:

          What genital equipment you are born with is not a matter of choice, that is correct. I don’t see what that has to do with much of anything, least of all FHM’s comments on their own list.

          • JohnJ says:

            That doesn’t surprise me at all.

          • CubaLibre says:

            Ah, leaden sarcasm. Guess you must have had to pay more attention than usual in your Corporations class today.

          • JohnJ says:

            At least I passed my Corporations class. And that was a dull class, too.

          • philtrum says:

            And what gender your brain “tells” you you are is also not really a matter of choice. People don’t wake up in the morning one day and say “Hmm, I think I’d like some coffee and a sex change.” There is a lot of suffering associated with being in the “wrong” body.

    • Fifi says:

      It’s not so much that gender is a matter of choice, which it is, but more that sex exists across a spectrum, from extreme biological expressions of maleness to extreme expressions of femaleness – with a wide range in between. The levels of particular hormones we are exposed to during gestation, determine all kinds of things about our physical sex (both in regards to the development of reproductive organs and the brain) and the gender we feel ourselves to be (our gender identity or psychological sex). Some people are born intersex, whether this expressed genitally or neurobiologically. As individuals, we even express different levels of male or femaleness during our lifespans, from child to adult to old age, as hormonal levels shift. We also have the medical technology to change sex through both surgery and hormones, so neither sex nor gender are actually very much a matter of choice these days on the most practical level.

      On top of the biological expressions of maleness and femaleness are the social conventions (these can shift radically over time and in different cultures). These include dress that signifies maleness of femaleness, ways of behaving, social roles, entitlements and restrictions, and so on. These are drag, they’re artificial so they can be imitated – either for fun or because someone feels that they are psychologically more aligned with that gender. Some people choose to change their biological sex because psychologically they feel themselves to be of the opposite gender. We have the technology, why shouldn’t they be able to make their own choice? Some people find this very disturbing and seem to take other people’s choices, to either play with the social conventions of gender or to change sex, very personally. Acknowledging reality is just acknowledging reality, the reality is that in our time both sex and gender are a choice.

      • Fifi says:

        That should read…”We also have the medical technology to change sex through both surgery and hormones, so neither sex nor gender are actually fixed and can be very much a matter of choice these days on the most practical level.”

  2. Res_Ipsa_Loquitur says:

    Gender isnt a matter of choice, but lately the media would have you believe that perhaps it’s only a state of mind. A “construct”, if you will.
    It’s gonna get really confusing when it’s time to use a public restroom.

  3. squid says:

    Well, gender is a matter of choice, as I see it, if only because there is no such ‘thing’ as gender as such, only some ideas attempting to define / explain an arbitrary / contingent state of being. If you feel that you don’t fit into whatever category, it means nothing, it doesn’t mean there is some kind of ‘spectrum’, it just means that our thinking about gender is too limited, and dosent properly explain every possible state of being. “Existence precedes essence”, and all that.

    The choice of gender isn’t between Female or Male, but between accepting that dichotomy or rejecting it. You are only not a cross-dresser because you’ve never crossed-dressed.

    • ExOttoyuhr says:

      Sex is biological, but gender is a cultural overlay on sex.

      They didn’t call them this, but you could argue that Siberian and some American Indian tribes had “shaman” as a gender separate from “man” and “woman.” You could also argue, taking examples from Irish myth, that a warrior-queen with no particular expectation of sexual fidelity, like Queen Maeve, was not really in the same gender as an ordinary wife who was expected to be faithful and was not expected to lead armies.

      Of course, in the American context, “gender” is routinely used as an euphemism for “sex” due to the slangy shortening of the phrase “sexual intercourse,” producing an unfortunate ambiguity where there could be an interesting distinction.

      • squid says:

        Certainly, I agree. But, did Siberian and some American Indian tribes make the distinction between sex and gender? And, if not, was there a distinction anyway, that they just hadn’t noticed? Where is the ‘break’ where something becomes cultural rather than biological?

        I have no answers to those questions, of course, but I’d argue that these distinctions are not ‘actually there’, but are created by the very act of distinguishing. Your genitals are made of atoms, they mean nothing…?!

        • ExOttoyuhr says:

          Your genitals certainly mean something — a culture whose adherents fail to reproduce is looking at an enormous selective disadvantage, to say the least — but it would be possible at least in theory to construct something on top of them.

          The shamanic tribes didn’t make this distinction themselves, but shamans were treated as neither male nor female, deliberately concealing their gender and reckoned as having neither male nor female sexual drives. (This goes further than, say, the celibacy of Catholic priests.)

          That being said, the fact that Siberian shamans are the only example I can find for more than two genders in a human culture (sorry, Queen Maeve) should suggest that the gender-versus-sex distinction is not a very valuable one in most circumstances.

          • squid says:

            Well, don’t forget the hijra. I guess where that article says “third sex” they mean “third gender”, but…

            …its just that if sex is more ‘fundamental’ than gender, then what is more fundamental than sex, and where, physically, neurobiologically, is the distinction? the ‘gap’ between male and female isn’t some vague, gray area; anyone who feels they fall in between is just as strongly and specifically gendered as someone who identifies precisely one way or the other, because the person already exists that way, there is no gender other than the gender that people might have, so if the idea of gender dosen;t incorporate every potential state of being gendered, then what does that say about our ideas of gender?

            I just think that, perhapse, a more “useful” approach is not to create two different categories – sex & gender – but to collapse the distinction, even beyond it’s implications: that gender isn’t something ‘build on top of’ sex, but that people are specifically the person they are, regardless – a priori, even, at a risk. Biology knows of no such thing as sex or gender, and physics dosen’t know the difference between the atoms of a penis and the atoms of a vagina. That a person’s failure to conform to the accepted mode of analysis (male/female) is not a failure / deviation on the part of the person, but a failure of the mode of analysus itself, a deviation from that which it is supposed to be analysing. Even if that moide of analysis is pretty much univerally accepted, and pretty much gets it ‘right’ most of the time…


          • squid says:

            for “Biology knows of no such thing as sex or gender”, read, “makes no distinction between”

          • Fifi says:

            ExOttoyuhr – Both our genitals/sex and what gender role we’re assigned (by nature or a surgeon) mean enough in our culture that some people freak out if they’re indeterminate or if our genitals aren’t made obvious or aren’t being advertised by our attire. But, hey, it’s not like American culture in general is actually very reality based and there are a lot of issues regarding sex and controlling the bodies of others that are ongoing in American culture. Really, why do YOU care if someone surgically alters their sex or likes to dress in drag? As a woman I’m not threatened or upset that someone with a penis made a “sexiest women/models” list – why? Because I recognize that all high fashion is drag, the form of beauty presented is always a construct and not “natural”, and someone else’s genitals are only my business if I’m interested in rubbing my own against them. If you find it upsetting to imagine rubbing your own genitals against those of the person in the photo even though you find them sexy, that’s really your own issue that’s entirely in your own head. Getting upset because of the person in question won’t conform to your fantasies (or because the fantasies inspired by gazing at their photo challenge your personal beliefs about yourself) is really viewing someone else as an object that exists ONLY for your pleasure and to be used to affirm your ideas about yourself. Granted, the whole point of a 100 sexiest women is to objectify for the viewer’s sexual pleasure but, hey, what some people don’t seem to get that all of it is fantasy and not “real” – even the people with vaginas in this photo are performing a form of drag and creating an artificial version of themselves.

            In some North American aboriginal tribes it’s believed that some people are born with “two spirits”, meaning they contain both a female and male spirits within them. This is generally considered as seeing there being 3 sexes, having a category that is intersex. This is usually more in reference to being Gay but it can apply to people who are transgender and, yes, it often gave them a special shamanic role in a tribe (though certainly not every shaman was or is two spirited). It’s a tradition that was all but wiped out by the missionaries and christian indoctrination but Gay native people have been reclaiming and reviving it.

            All in all, it’s clear that some cultures think being Gay or transgendered is something special and innate from birth. So, yes, there’s a recognition of a third sex in some cultures throughout history – particularly ones that don’t use shame about natural urges like sex as a form of social control. It’s interesting when people mistake a culturally defined “reality” for actual reality and accuse others of not acknowledging their social and/or personal reality as ultimate reality. It’s quite normal in many ways since we’re steeped in our culture from birth so we run into issues of perspective and being the frog in slow boiling water really – anthropologists have spent a lot of time on this issue, not surprisingly (predating notions of post-modernism regarding cultural perspectives and social beliefs about reality). If we’re highly conformist and our personal identity is very tied into this conformity, we may feel quite threatened when physical reality doesn’t conform to the social and personal beliefs we hold about reality.

            All in all this tempest in a teapot is actually more about sex than gender ultimately. The list is of the “sexiest women” – which basically means “women” we’d like to have sex with. If it was just about aesthetic beauty (or even sexiness) with nothing to do with the viewer, there’d be no revulsion and homophobic barfing needed to assert how straight the people making the phobic comments are because all the men getting upset wouldn’t be getting grossed out by imagining themselves having sex with a man who looks like a really hot woman. It’s their own imagination that’s upsetting them really since the closest any of them will get to these models’ bodies is wanking over a photograph so it really makes no difference if there’s a hidden penis under that dress! Well, except in the mind of the wanker.

            And there are roles even amongst our ape cousins for apes that don’t procreate,

          • Fifi says:

            To address the very Christian idea that “sex is all about procreation” we only have to look at our bonobo cousins that use sex for all kinds of other social reasons that have nothing to do with procreation. This idea that sex is only for procreation is directly linked to christian sexual taboos that used sexual desire as a form of social control, it’s not supported by what we see in the natural world or human behaviour in general. There are also social roles amongst our ape cousins for apes that don’t procreate – it’s constantly interesting to me how many people still insist that essentially christian religious ideas are “reality” and need to defend their religious notion of “natural” and “real” by being insulting to others – though I’d say that this is mainly driven by fear that drives people to lash out in unpleasant ways because they feel threatened by reality.

          • philtrum says:

            a culture whose adherents fail to reproduce is looking at an enormous selective disadvantage, to say the least

            Well sure, if everyone failed to reproduce. But how is a gay or trans person who doesn’t reproduce any different, on that scale, from a straight cis person who, say, becomes a monk or nun, or is physically infertile?
            I’m not aware of any culture that expects all its adherents to reproduce.

  4. Res_Ipsa_Loquitur says:

    This is a true scenario, and names are obviously changed. I work in a prison in psych. In prison, men and women are housed separately. Those with penises must live with those that also have penises. Ditto for vaginas. (Breasts don’t count.). So, even if you feel you are really trapped in the wrong body, you will be housed according to the equipment you came into the world with. Enter David and Cassandra. Both David and Cassandra were born with penises, so conceivably would be housed with men. But, David and Cassandra both identify as female and want to be housed with the ladies. They both have felt this way strongly since they were children-that they are truly female beings trapped in men’s bodies. David, for whatever reason, kept his male name. Cassandra chose to put down a female alias.
    David had reassignment surgery in Canada, so no more penis for him. But David is still 6’2”, broad shouldered, and sporting the beginnings of a beard. Where do we put David?
    Cassandra has not had reassignment surgery-and therefore still has a penis, though it has shrunken some. Cassandra buys hormones off the streets, and dresses like a woman complete with long hair, affected high pitched voice, and large breasts. Cassandra is about 5’5” and maybe 130lbs. This is what is referred to in general population as “Fresh meat”. Where do we put Cassandra?
    Both individuals wind up in the inpatient psych hospital. David signs in on a voluntary admission after feeling depressed and paranoid during the intake search-the guards were apparently less then understanding about her lifestyle choices. Cassandra also signed in voluntarily for similar reasons after several men on her housing unit made advances towards her.
    This is where it gets tricky. Remember, David has no penis, Cassandra does. When a pelvic exam is done on David to ascertain his lack of much aforementioned organ, and he is psychiatrically stable, he is discharged with the diagnosis of “Mood disorder NOS” (or as I often deem it, FOS), put on something like Celexa 10mg with a Vistaril chaser, and sent to be housed at the FEMALE facility. Cassandra, is found to possess the offending male organ, and when stabilized psychiatrically, is discharged with a diagnosis of Delusional Disorder, r/o Chronic Paranoid Schizophrenia to the MALE facility.
    “Ok”, you’ll all say, “One has a dick, one doesn’t, they’re housed accordingly, what’s the problem?”
    This obviously causes a lot of problems, mostly at the female facility, where the female guards and other female inmates are pissed that a man-sized, potentially violent (everyone in jail has this potential), formerly male genitalia-having individual is housed on the unit. David becomes depressed because she is the object of constant mockery and an outsider. The OB/GYN doctor at the facility refuses to prescribe David the hormone cocktail that she was formerly on. She takes the Celexa, and it is eventually increased dramatically in dose.
    Cassandra is not faring much better at the male prison. After a number of serious threats or rape, daily harassment by her fellow male inmates, and a mixture of disgust and mockery by the male guards, Cassandra decides to take Protective Custody. In PC, an inmate is allowed out twice a day for an hour each time to exercise, make phone calls and shower. The physician at Cassandra’s facility is kind enough to prescribe her female hormones-the first legally prescribed hormones she’s ever had. But Cassandra is also prescribed Thorazine for her “delusional thought content and ideations of being a woman”, and labled as being severely mentally ill. She takes it-she’s got a lot of hours to kill.

    (Sorry for typos or bad spelling)

  5. Guy Fox says:

    Sorry, I composed a lot more text for this, bringing in cultural luminaries like Hayley Wickenheiser, Rachel Maddow, Dave Barry, and Elena Kagan. I don’t know why it didn’t appear.

  6. vprime says:

    This pretty much proves gender is performance. Average Joe who doesn’t know the backstory is going to drool over Pejic just like any other female model. More interesting is that for a long time fashion has posited the ideal woman as possessing the body of a young boy with balloon-like breasts attached. I’m surprised it took this long for the fashion industry to take the next logical step and just start using extremely thin men as runway models. And VS is a huge promulgator of the body appearance I’ve described above. It’s fitting they would consider Mr. Pejic as a model.